Suriname in 3 weeks
We went to Suriname (a young couple) end of September-mid October and used Bradt guide as main source of wisdom. The book covers the country quite well and helped us a lot with accommodation and other practicalities however the prices changed a lot and some opening times too. Here is what we have done in Suriname:
We arrived from Amsterdam and as it was late evening we took a taxi from the international airport to our accommodation at Un-Pied-a-Terre. There are taxi drivers waiting at the airport shouting at you „taxi, taxi“ so we grabbed one of those. The original price was 25 EUR but we asked if 20 is OK and the woman said yes. Then later she probably regretted her choice and wanted the 25. I don’t know if there is much cheaper option by taxi. Maybe if you arrange a taxi in advance you can save some money.
We stayed in Paramaribo in total four times, always in between trips to somewhere else and always stayed at guesthouse Un-Pied-a-Terre. The prices are fair and accommodation simple. The location is good, you can be on the sort of main street of the city (Henk Arron straat) in about 5 minutes’ walk. A big benefit is also the staff, whenever we came back it was like meeting friends again.
Be aware that it is not easy to find any sort of a cafe or breakfast place in Parbo before 9-10 am so if you wake up early you either have to have some provisions or have to accept being hungry for some time. Otherwise we had very good experience with Souposo on Costerstraat (the same street as Un-Pied-a-Terre) and with warung Latoya in Blauwgrond. Joosjes roti and Cafe ‘t Vat is also having good food. Don’t expect to buy much stuff except for snacks or real basics like milk and flour in the Chinese supermarkets. Especially the small ones have a really limited offer and for the bigger ones you need to get outside of the city centre. We came across one western-style supermarket and that was Choi’s. They had a lot of Dutch and American products. Also be prepared that the coffee in most places is either disgusting or (outside of the city) instant.
After Parbo we went to Galibi and arranged it through George who is mentioned in the book. He is a very peculiar person and he might not suit everyone. He is a businessman who is offering tours to Brownsberg and practically anywhere else (if it is not the jungle) and right our first evening he was making us a bit uncomfortable by offering his services (though he wasn’t too pushy and once he understood we don’t have much interest he didn’t bring it up again). The trip to Galibi with George was super cheap. I think we paid ca. 25 EUR pp per day including accommodation, breakfast and dinner (there is no other choice anyway) and transport to and from Galibi from Paramaribo. On the other hand we had to wait ca. 2-3 hours in Albina for some other group which was bound to Galibi. The accommodation at George’s is very basic and I suppose that because we came off the main turtle season it was not very clean (especially the sanitary block). Once you learn to know George a bit you might feel a little less intimidated by his proving look and actually we had a lot of fun on a tour of Galibi on his 4 wheel motorbike for 20 SRD. Otherwise if you don’t come for the turtles Galibi is a very peaceful village and is worth the visit if you are interested to see how people live in such a remote place. The beach is beautiful except that there is a lot of garbage lying around (plastic, old fridges, damaged flip-flops etc).
After Galibi we went to Brownsberg (via Parbo of course). We decided to try out local public transport and wanted to take the bus to Brownsweg at 06:00. The stop is somewhere on the Saramacca Straat. According to the book it is opposite of Jerusalem Bazaar however locals (who as we found out during our holiday are not so good with explaining directions) were sending us further. In the end we ended up somewhere further down the street and didn’t take the bus to Brownsweg but to Atjoni (Brownsweg was on the way). The stop was at Saramacca Straat 75 next to a shop called „Danny store“. The bus arrived at 06:15 but as we found out it was only leaving at 08:30. However if you want a seat you better get there at 06:00 as the seats were sold-out quickly. Be aware that there is no toilet anywhere in the direct vicinity. The trip was quite an experience and you have to be very, very patient (as with many things in Suriname). Eventually we got to Brownsweg where it took some time to find out which direction to go to Brownsberg. The bus left us next to a supermarket so we had to turn left and continue along the main street until we came to a board pointing the direction to Brownsberg. If you follow the main street you get to a complex of two-three supermarkets, quite a clean toilet (not the one next to the Chinese restaurant) and a Chinese restaurant. We had fries in the restaurant and they were the worst we ever had so not much to recommend. The way to Brownsberg is a nice hike, sometimes a bit steep. It is actually 11km not 13 as mentioned on the official board. At a certain point there was a crossroads where you have to turn left and then just follow always straight and you get out at Brownsberg camp.
The camp is having it’s charm but it is very rustic. We had a lot of frogs, lizards and grasshoppers in our room and in the shower and toilet. Also despite the locals telling you there are no mosquitos there are some especially at dusk but not many. To arrange the camp we called Stinasu and got a reservation. It is a bit overpriced, the same as the food in the only restaurant but it was a wonderful experience as the location is really unique.
Through a local guy we got a taxi arranged to Atjoni from Brownsweg (phone 07400002, Roy) for 40 SRD pp. Otherwise at that cluster of shops at Brownsweg there are a lot of taxi’s stopping so maybe you can get there one as well.
We have arranged to stay in hotel Botopassi and had a boat taxi from Atjoni to Botopassi organised by the owner of the hotel. The hotel itself is very nice, located on the other side of the river as the village. A useful guide to the Saramacca rivier hotels was laying at Un-Pied-a-Terre. We paid 40 EUR pp per night including three meals a day. The food was very good, the huts neat enough and the company amiable. The location is a very big plus as the riverbank there is particulary beautiful. Next we stayed at Gunzi which is a traditional village (=not Christian) of around 80 inhabitants. The local eco camp Tei Wei is run by two very friendly brothers. There is not much to do in the village but it was a unique experience. Walking around you can see the shrines for offerings to ghosts. Also the huts of the camp are on a nice location next to the river. The food was prepared by one of the owners and was unique as well as it was all local – cassava soup, cooked papaya, local fresh baked buns. We also arranged a alligator spotting trip through the owners. It was a magical experience, being on the river at night and we were lucky and saw loads of baby alligators.
After a brief stay in Parbo in our last week we had a 5 day trip to Kasikasima organised by Mets. We booked it through Jenny tours as it was cheaper. You can immediatelly feel that the tour is organised by professionals. You are never bored. You are never hungry. All is arranged. It is expensive – we paid 770 EUR pp. – but it was worth every cent. Our guides to Kasikasima were local Amerindians and were perfect for this sort of a trip. They knew everything about the jungle, the animals and the plants. The boat trip to the base camp was quite rough, especially because it was end of the dry season, so I would recommend to take a special waterproof bag since the garbage bags provided by the guides are not enough to protect the belongings. Also at one spot you need to change boats and the second boat was having a leak so we had to spend the last part of our journey pouring the water out of the boat.
The hike to Kasikasima is not very hard but the heat and lack of water makes it much tougher.
Transport in Suriname was very easy to arrange it (especially because we speak Dutch). Usually we asked someone local and they either knew someone or could give us a phone number.
Including the costs of the trip to Kasikasima we spent aroud 75 EUR per day. Excluding it was around 50 EUR. If you have any SRD left make sure you exchange them for USD or EUR in Suriname as it seems it is not possible to get rid of them anywhere else.